UN rights official postpones Australia visit over restrictions

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A UN special envoy said Saturday he was forced to postpone a trip to Australia because of new government restrictions on access to refugee detention centres.

Francois Crepeau, special rapporteur on human rights of migrants, said he was due to start a visit on Sunday to review the status of migrants in the camps located on islands off Papua New Guinea.

The new restrictions threaten personnel with two years in jail for disclosing “protected information,” which Crepeau said would discourage people from helping his investigation.

“This threat of reprisals with persons who would want to cooperate with me on the occasion of this official visit is unacceptable,” he said.

Crepeau said he had asked Australia to guarantee that no one would be at any risk of intimidation or sanctions for meeting him during his visit, but did not get a satisfactory response.

A spokesman for the Immigration Ministry said access to the detention centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea was the responsibility of those nations.

Australian authorities routinely detain boats carrying migrants at sea and divert them to the islands to prevent them from reaching the mainland.

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